So, 12 days after arriving in Frankfurt, I was finally called to a rehearsal. It quickly became obvious that Meredith was not so easy for some people to say, and Mimi became my name. It was quite intimidating to show up to a group that had been rehearsing together for weeks and was jabbering away in German. We immediately spoke through my whole scene (my character, Erda, only appears in one scene in "Das Rheingold" and only interacts with one other character, Wotan) in rapid German. I had to get up close to the Wotan, basically mold my body to his, and whisper the German lines in his ear. I wished I had met him first, and that I hadn't eaten that Greek salad for lunch.
The assistant director then proceeded to make the whole room sit there while she went on for seriously 12 agonizing minutes speaking directly to me in German explaining the whole set, costumes, setting, plot twists, etc. I think there was something in there about a gold ring. heehee. It was terrible, yet I just sat there smiling, nodding, and trying to look clued in.
As I expected, I rise out the ground, stay in a small little circle, and then sink back down. Not so difficult staging. However, I have a chair on which to sit, and have to deliver 90% of my aria seated, which is not easy for me as a singer. And then Wotan crawls up to me when I beckon him, plops himself between my legs and I have to cradle his head, stroke his hair, sing looking down at him, etc. However, many roles I sing in opera have me comforting another singer (usually a soprano) and petting their heads. I do, however, fear it's going to look like I'm giving birth to him onstage. We'll see. Unfortunately, I have to be looking straight down into Wotan's eyes at a difficult rhythmic part, and I still haven't quite figured out how I'm going to be looking down and see the conductor at the same time. It will all work out.
The next day of rehearsal, the kinder arrived. They are playing up the Earth Mother aspect of my role, and literally giving me 3 children to have around me for my scene. There were 6 adorable kids between I'd say 5 and 8. I had to lift them one by one to find the lightest and then we tried out different combinations of kids to see which ones were the better actors. Now, that 10% of the aria I get to stand for, I have to hold a not-small, not-light child in my arms. Her name is Marie, and she is adorable, but I fear for her ears when I'm singing inches away and I fear for my breath control to sing long phrases while holding 45 pounds or so. It's just nice to have Marie, Lilly, and Elizabeth there, so I have something to make our small little circle more enjoyable. They laugh at my attempts to speak German to them, and I am teaching them some quiet clapping games.
I have made a friend in Martina, the woman singing Fricka. We walk, eat, talk, play frisbee and ping pong, and she lives on my street. That's one lovely thing about this cast, which is universally friendly. These people will be singing in the other parts of this Ring Cycle here over the next few years as well. I am involved in 3 of the 4 operas, and knowing the people I'll be singing with and liking them very much makes me so much more optimistic for the next few years of my career. My many many months in Frankfurt through 2013 will now be something I look forward to. Such continuity and repeat colleagues is rarely found in this business. It's a treat.